Spanish judge questions al-Qaeda terror suspects
by Daniel Mason
Three suspected members of al-Qaeda who had amassed enough explosives to blow up a bus and may have been planning an attack in Europe are being questioned by a Spanish judge at the country's National Court.
Spain's interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, confirmed at a press conference yesterday that the men had been arrested after being under police surveillance for some time. He said there was "clear evidence that they were preparing an attack either in Spain or other European countries".
Two of the suspects – believed to be Russians of Chechen origin – were arrested in the early hours of Wednesday morning in Almuradiel near the central city of Ciudad Real. They were travelling by bus from Cadiz in southern Spain – near a large American military base – to a northern town near the French border.
Special forces had to intervene as one of the men fiercely resisted arrest, Fernández said. It was the suspects' apparent attempt to leave the country that prompted police to make their move.
The third man, from Turkey, was detained at his home in the town of La Línea de la Concepción, near Gibraltar. Police reportedly found explosives as well as manuals for flying light aircraft and radio-controlled planes.
According to The Telegraph, which quoted police sources, the men had been seen using motor-powered paragliders around Gibraltar, fuelling speculation that the British territory might have been a target. However, Fernández said there was no indication that Gibraltar was a target.
It has also been reported that all three men had been trained in military camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The two Russians had been in Spain for two months, while the Turkish man is alleged to be a facilitator for al-Qaeda.
Fernández said: "These are extremely dangerous people. This is one of the biggest investigations that has been carried out up until now against the al-Qaeda terrorists group at an international level. We face a global threat, in particular against the west. Spain doesn't face a bigger or smaller threat than any other country."
Photographs of the three men were released but police did not give their names, identifying them only by their initials: AAA and MA for the Russians and CY for the Turkish man.
Terror attacks in Europe increased in 2012
There was an increase in the number of terrorist attacks in the EU in 2012, according to the EU's law enforcement agency, reversing a previous trend of decline since 2007